Jesus Was an Epidemiologist (and Black), PT.I.

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Health Promotion Practice

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The path to health equity is lined with our samples and specimens-Black, Brown, Indigenous, queer, poor, immigrant, and so on. Bodies broken open in the name of science. And we . . . are being regressed. Using religious symbolism, this piece draws from critical and Black feminist theory to interrogate the ceremonial breaking of the Black body via the epidemiologic imaginary. It renders an interpretation of public health script/scripture premised upon White scholars seeking salvation/to save-borderline cultish forays of "health equity tourism" (Lett et al., 2022) into communities of color to break our bodies into pieces, to pass our specimens/samples around as if portioned into statistical chalices. In doing so, this piece draws out considerations not only of racial bias within research itself, but also racial exclusion and underrepresentation as a broader concern within epidemiology knowledge production processes-wherein credentialed researchers, grant review panels, editors, editorial boards, and "peer" reviewers remain overwhelmingly and disproportionately White. This piece accordingly questions the notion of "peer" review, calling out the manner in which colorblind structural racism invisibilizes the White scientific gaze-that is, the undeniable whiteness of who is "peering" into whose bodies/communities. As the public health field continues to deepen engagements with principles/practices of antiracism and decolonization, this poem draws attention to how current dynamics not only re-inscribe social hierarchy, but reify epidemiologic research as racial-capitalist (re)colonization and mode of epistemic and public health violence vis-à-vis practices of silencing, erasure, fragmentation, expropriation, monetization, and consumption of the racialized body.To view the original version of this poem, see the supplemental material section of this article online.


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